LaserLight's American Legends series, keyed to the commemorative U.S. postal stamps that adorn its covers, is geared toward providing discount compilations of major American performers. It is not geared toward providing comprehensive, competent, or coherent ones, however. Rather, an apparently randomly selected and sequenced set of recordings appears on each album, lacking any sleeve information to indicate where it comes from. Sound quality veers from excellent '60s- and '70s-era stereo on one cut to scratchy '30s-era mono on the next. That said, the Duke Ellington volume is better than most, in that it contains many of Ellington's better known works -- "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Take the 'A' Train," "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "Mood Indigo," "Caravan" -- and has an unusually long running time of nearly 56 minutes. Bing Crosby's 1932 Brunswick recording of "St. Louis Blues" turns up, and other singers include such Ellington favorites as Ivie Anderson and Al Hibbler. True Ellington fans will probably pull out their hair at the haphazard nature of the album, but neophytes with only a few dollars to spend will get a superficial sense of the Ellington sound.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann